What do you serve at a Fourth of July party? Whether it's a smaller gathering or a big backyard cookout, it's best to have all bases covered.
This means preparing some flavorful appetizers for guests to enjoy upon arrival (and of course appetizers are always great to bring if you're headed to a potluck). Be sure to prepare your plans for the main event, whether it's going to be a big barbecue spread of burgers, grilled seafood or sandwiches piled high with pulled pork or poultry.
Once the entrées are nailed down, it's time to get started on the sides. These often-underrated dishes truly deserve their own place in the spotlight. Side dishes are meant to complement the flavors of the main meats or veggies you're serving. For pasta salad, you may want traditional flavors to pair with classic barbecue or something a little more unique to amp up grilled chicken or shrimp. Add in some lighter salads or fresh veggies to balance other hearty dishes, too. A potato salad can certainly make or break a great cookout spread, so choose wisely — but we can assure you, every recipe onour Fourth of July menu is dressed to impress!
Once the starter and main courses are decided upon, don't forget to check off the Independence Day cocktail menu, depending on how festive, sweet or strong you may prefer. And finally, never forget about dessert … specifically cake.
To celebrate our country's Independence Day and the amazing food that lends itself to summer fun, here are our very best Fourth of July food ideas.
July Fourth appetizers and side dishes
Add this beefy, cheesy mixture to crispy tots to take them to a whole other level.
It's time to break out the red and white checkered tablecloth and blast Tony Bennett on the radio. These pizza "bombs" are a handheld pizza popper packed with authentic pizzeria flavor. Make them in advance and throw 'em on the grill right before you get the party started.
This pasta salad takes advantage of all the top-of-its-peak summer produce, packs a flavorful punch, and the light pepperoncini and pecorino vinaigrette is the perfect pairing on a hot day.
Smooth, creamy and vibrant, this dip can be an easy finger food for the Fourth served with a variety of sides, from pita chips to flatbread to crunchy and colorful veggies.
Stuffed with creamy avocado, chopped egg, tomatoes and crisp lettuce, these bite-sized bacon cups are the perfect way to enjoy a classic Cobb salad.
Making your own barbecue sauce is the key; this one is super tangy and bright. These wings are perfect with cold beer! You could probably eat the whole platter on your own, but we'd caution against it: There are too many other good foods to enjoy.
Crispy on the outside and soft on the inside, fried green tomatoes are a quintessential summer staple. We recommend pairing these delicious bites with fresh homemade ranch dressing.
These tuna tacos blend traditional Mexican and Italian flavors into tasty little bites that are perfect for entertaining.
Kardea Brown ups the ante in her crudités spread by grilling the vegetables instead of serving them raw, using a medley of red bell peppers, mushrooms, broccoli, carrots and asparagus served alongside her smoked red pepper dip, a mix of feta, Greek yogurt, lemon juice, garlic and smoked paprika.
Buttery, creamy and cheesy — with bacon on top! — these potato bites are the perfect union of flavor and texture. Adding crushed potato chips and fresh chives to garnish takes this dish to the next level.
In this garlicky, cheesy and bacon-packed recipe, deviled eggs are exciting again. If you're ever left tasked with bringing an appetizer, these come in handy because you can make them ahead of time, they take under 30 minutes to put together and you can customize them to your own tastes.
Is it a salad, a dip or cornbread? Well, it's all three! This wonderful trifle is bursting with sweet corn, crunchy bell peppers, sharp and creamy cheeses and salty bacon. It can be served in a clear dish for a fun appetizer or on the side of your main dish.
Need something to satiate your guests while you tend to the grill? Whip up this classic dip in no time and serve as a snack with store-bought or homemade tortilla chips or raw vegetable crudités.
Looking for a richer take on deviled eggs? Add some pimento cheese. Looking to make it even more festive? Add popcorn shrimp.
Loaded with sweet and spicy pickled vegetables to go along with the herby and briny feta dip, this platter requires only a few minutes of cooking, which means you'll have a cool kitchen while preparing a veggie-packed dish that is light, fresh and robust in flavor.
This recipe is as seasonal as it gets! Tomatoes are at their peak right now, and so is sweet and juicy corn. It couldn't be a better time to throw all these seasonal vegetables together to make a delicious salad. Add a little Middle Eastern flair to the salad with grilled halloumi. Halloumi is the only cheese you can grill, and once you grill it, it changes its texture and flavors completely, which goes so well with the rest of the salad. Make this super simple but super flavorful salad for your next party!
Valerie Bertinelli's go-to recipe for warm-weather entertaining, this recipe no-cook, full of flavor, only requires a few ingredients. All the elements pair so well together and make for an easy and impressive starter or side dish.
Pearl couscous is especially hearty and toothsome, with means it stands up perfectly even when made days ahead, and it makes for especially tasty leftovers to enjoy the whole week through. Just be sure to keep the herbaceous vinaigrette separate, and combine just before serving.
The bright and tangy flavors of Mexican-style “street corn” add a fun twist to this summer party-ready elbow macaroni salad. Prep it just before serving, or make it the night before and chill in the fridge for an easy and ready-to-go potluck recipe that will be an instant crowd pleaser at all your summer bashes.
No mayo alert! This Japanese-inspired pasta salad is filled with edamame, carrots and bell peppers, and its dressing is made with miso, ginger, soy and sesame. It gets better as it sits, which means it's perfect for picnics.
"There's something so refreshing about the combination of juicy watermelon and salty feta," says Siri. "When you add sweet blueberries, you have the perfect, patriotic summer salad."
Anyone who's a fan of a seven-layer dip will fall in love with this healthier version, chock-full of raw, fresh veggies and topped with some creamy, cheesy bacon. The layers look nice in a clear a bowl and the ingredients can be easily substituted with whatever produce you have on hand.
We love a salad that’s loaded up with goodies, and this one definitely fits the bill! With lightly pickled cucumbers, grapes, blueberries, pistachios and gorgonzola cheese, it’s got a ton of amazing flavor going on.
Grilled vegetables add a naturally smoky touch to this classic pasta salad tossed in a tangy vinaigrette originally created by chef Matt Abdoo's mom. (Mom always knows best!)
When you need to use whatever you have in the fridge, turn to this recipe. It's one of the best summer salad recipes with pasta. If you have red onion, a little piece of squash or zucchini, berries, peaches, apples or one random tomato, just throw it in there. Plus, it's great when made ahead because of the marination and best served at room temperature — making it one of those easy 4th of July recipes to bring to a potluck.
Adding tuna to pasta in a zippy vinaigrette is a great way to make this salad shine as an entrée. And with fresh herbs and red onion, it's a perfect foil to the heavier dishes on the table.
This is a lighter spin on classic potato salad. The potatoes are swapped with cauliflower, resulting in a delicious and satisfying dish … you won't even miss the potatoes!
This unexpected duo is a match made in sweet, vibrant heaven. You can roast the tomatoes in advance and assemble the dish just before serving. You can use strawberries that are slightly underripe for this so the "green" flavor complements the sweetness of the tomatoes.
If you don't get your elbows dirty, you aren't making potato salad right. You have to mix it with your hands to make sure all the flavors are mixing in. It should taste good every step of the way.
"I love Southern-style mac and cheese because it's cheesy and hearty, yet sturdy," says Brown. "It's basically a custard-style baked macaroni and cheese with eggs, heavy cream and sharp cheddar cheese."
The mayo, the mustard, the pickled relish: Damon Stalworth's potato salad has all of the classic potato salad ingredients. A delightful addition to a rack of barbecued ribs slathered in sauce or a quick standalone lunch, this is a simple recipe mixed with hard-boiled eggs for a little extra protein.
Grilled Mexican street corn is an exciting way to kick up the all-time favorite summer side! It adds so much flavor, you may never be satisfied with just butter ever again. One of the best parts about this easy grilling recipe is that, as opposed to other variations of street corn recipes that require utensils and serving platters, this one is made right on the cob. This way, all guests have to do is dig into the juicy corn kernels smothered in the creamy sauce made from sour cream, mayonnaise and cotija cheese, dusted with hot, sweet and smoky spices all topped off with a nice squeeze of tart lime. Some call it corn on the cob, some call it heaven.
July Fourth entrées
The Gotham Smash — a New York delicacy — is a delicious, nostalgic burger that will bring you back to your childhood.
The contrast between sweet and tangy is what makes this recipe so delightful. The brioche adds a beautiful sweetness against the tangy mustard-based Carolina barbecue sauce and the subtle smokiness of the pulled pork.
This is the classic Korean barbecue recipe. Most restaurants serve it bone-in. They take the 3-bone piece and slice it "flanken"-style and you end up with a thin, 1/2-inch slice.
Frogmore stew is a one-pot mix — a "boil" — of the low country's peak summer offerings. You don't need to do much more than find the best ingredients and make them sing.
Tired of the same old burger? Stuff it with your favorite cheese and smoky bacon for an over-the-top inside-out bacon cheeseburger.
Sweet, sticky, savory and tender, these teriyaki beef skewers definitely have it all! No matter when you serve them, they're sure to be a hit with kids and adults alike.
Just when you thought pulled pork couldn't get any better, Al Roker spices things up with this sweet-and-savory recipe. Cooked slowly for hours and tossed in a spicy vinegar sauce, this pulled pork recipe has a truly tropical twist.
No need for giant pots or special equipment — this easy twist on a classic clambake is made right in your oven using a couple sheet pans and is perfect for summer entertaining and fun weekend meals. Be sure to serve along with plenty of crusty bread for dipping and set out some large bowls to hold the empty shells!
This on-theme burger is loaded with flavorful marmalade and aioli and is a great choice if you opt for this traditional Fourth of July food.
Don't want beef? This tasty chicken recipe is easy to make for a crowd because you won't constantly be taking temps for everyone's burger order. You just grill the chicken and assemble with melty blue cheese and red pickled onion.
Barbecue chips plus barbecue sauce equals the ultimate barbecue recipe. Here, Sunny Anderson brines bone-in pork chops, grills them, lightly dunks them in a classic barbecue sauce and dredges them in crushed barbecue-flavored kettle chips.
These ribs get infused with a ton of flavor from a wet rub and grilling process. Serve these tasty ribs with summery salads, seasonal grilled veggies and traditional barbecue sides like baked beans, potato salad or mac and cheese.
"This is where I got my start — watching my granny be up all night cooking brisket when I was a little boy," said pitmaster Kevin Bludso. "You'd see this big tough piece of meat, then you'd go to sleep and the next day everybody was talking about how good it was. Brisket was her favorite meat, and I felt like I got to be a part of it."
Tangy blueberries add a tart twist to a classic pico de gallo-style salsa. Paired with tomatoes and crispy white onions, they’re the perfect patriotic topper for simple pan-fried fish tacos.
This dish tastes like summer, with smoky and crispy grilled chicken, sweet tomatoes and creamy cheese. It’s an appetizer, salad and main course all in one.
Looking for something a little lighter for Fourth of July? These succulent shrimp will be a bright and zesty addition to your summer spread.
"What was once a method of preparing food surreptitiously by Jamaican Maroons has become Jamaica's greatest contribution to the culinary canon: a tapestry of flavors, aromatics and spices," says Kwame Onwuachi.
July Fourth drinks
When you want to go all the way with Americana-themed cocktails, try out this red, white and blue sparkling sangria. Light and bubbly, this big batch drink is ideal for a crowd. All you need is a few fresh strawberries and sweet blueberries to help make it a firework-worthy toast.
If you like to enjoy the occasional glass of wine, why not try it with an ice pop? It's like the classic pairing of strawberries and Champagne, only extra icy.
It's your two favorite summertime drinks in one glass. Tart lemon compliments the fruity sweetness of the wine with a splash of light rum in this tasty combination cocktail.
Made with chunks of frozen watermelon, rosé and a touch of Campari for some summer flavor, this cocktail is light, refreshing and just the right amount of sweet. Serve up this slushy in short glasses straight from the blender.
You may just find your new favorite cocktail with one tiny tweak on a classic. This recipe uses fresh raspberries to the traditional margarita for a pop of color and perfect hint of berry flavor. The small addition transforms the drink into a summery sip.
A drink that's all about the pour to get those vibrant layers of color, this tequila-based frozen cocktail has a few flavors running through it. As you sip your way to the bottom, you'll enjoy blueberry, coconut and strawberry margaritas.
This cocktail is perfect for any summer celebration because it's bright, refreshing and just a bit boozy. It tastes even better under a sky filled with sparkling fireworks!
For Fourth of July, vodka gets sweetened up in these colorful, boozy desserts. They're fun to eat or drink at an outdoor gathering for those who don't mind a cocktail on the sweeter site.
From humble beginnings in little bars across Northern Italy, the Aperol spritz ritual has spread across the continents, with people all around the globe connecting through their love of Italy's No. 1 cocktail. Light, refreshing with a unique bittersweet taste, the Aperol spritz is the perfect drink to start the evening.
Make an adult version of this carnival kiddie favorite by adding a bit of rum to these refreshingly festive snow cones. Just be sure to make labels or hand them directly to guests of age if it's a family party with children.
This is a frozen ice pop version of everyone's new favorite summer cocktail — the vodka-spiked Shirley Temple.
Sangria is typically made with red wine but for our Italian summer take, we're using white wine and Amarena cherries. The syrup used to package the wild Amarena cherries is the perfect sweetener for your summer cocktails.
July Fourth desserts
Poke cakes are super simple, taste great and make for a very pretty slice on the plate. Sunny Anderson decorates hers with vibrant red and blue berries with swirls of red and blue sauce inside the vanilla and sour cream-frosted cake.
Pre-made cookies and store-bought ice cream make a lovely and easy dessert. Assemble it ahead of time and let it chill in the freezer until you're ready to dig in.
This is the perfect dessert for the height of strawberry season, and with the addition of a few blueberries, becomes red, white and blue, which makes it a perfect way to celebrate the Fourth of July. Put on your garden party hat, grab a flute of Champagne and savor.
Sweet and crunchy freeze-dried berries add a patriotic pop of color to these gooey marshmallow and cereal bars. I love blueberries and raspberries, but feel free to pick and choose your favorites. Note that you do need the freeze-dried berries for this recipe; fresh or frozen berries will add too much liquid to the treats, and regular dried berries are too chewy.
A skillet fruit crisp is Lazarus Lynch's No. 1 go-to dessert because it's so easy to make. You just toss in the fruit, top it with a crumble, bake it … and that's it!
We're big fans of shortcut desserts, which is why this recipe is one of our favorites! Make the cake look even more impressive by piping the whipped cream on top using a large star-shaped piping tip.
Equal parts thirst-quenching and indulgent! Watermelon "pizzas" are made using thick slices of baby watermelon (it's prime season, after all) and are such an easy way to serve dessert. You can set up a mix and match toppings bar so guests can make their own, too.
Who doesn't love a popsicle, especially when it's made with real fruit? They're easy to eat, a fun dessert and are color customized to suit the patriotic summer celebration.
"I love baking a fresh pie crust and then just filling it with fresh fruit and ice cream. It's simple and really takes me back to my childhood," Alex Guarnaschelli said of her summery recipe. "I think strawberry ice cream works best with a drizzle of aged or reduced balsamic vinegar for some grown-up acidity. If you want to get even more into summer, top the berries with some fresh basil or mint leaves."
An easy, no-bake pudding pie is almost simple enough for kids to make on their own. From the beginning to end, this recipe is perfect for summertime fun for kids in the kitchen.
Is it really a summer gathering without s'mores? How about bacon s'mores? Thick-cut bacon has a similar structure as the graham cracker and adds a whole bunch of flavor dimension for the salty-sweet fans out there.
"My dad's peach cobbler was just out of this world," says Lynch. "It's really a great summer dessert, but I eat it all year round. Over the years, I've kept this recipe true to its core: a great crust and sweet peaches soaked in cinnamon and sugar. Obviously fresh peaches are better, but this is the way my daddy made it and I ain't changing it."
If it's too hot out, why bake? With this easy fruit-filled recipe, you can make a delicious dessert without ever turning on the oven.